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"It‘s Hard to Keep Track": Mapping a Shifting Nation in Dylan Horrocks‘s Hicksville

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posted on 2023-03-14, 23:29 authored by Clayton, Hamish

Using an art form that justifiably lays claim to both visual and literary genealogies—the graphic novel—Dylan Horrocks's Hicksville advances, rather than strictly challenges, many of the discussions which have informed the local manufacture of art and literature. My purpose in this thesis is to explore Horrocks's deployment of the critical perspectives of both art historical and literary discourse as they have developed from the pre-colonial to the twenty-first century in New Zealand, especially those associated with cultural nationalism. Hicksville claims a particular relation to the existing traditions within both art-historical and literary lines wherein they are conjoined in practice; integrated into the formal properties of Horrocks's work, the traditional concerns of local art and literature are not only subject matter but guide Horrocks‘s approach to narrative. The tension between art and place—the responsibility of the artist to the nation and its referents—appears in Hicksville as a structuring device rather than polemic via its concern with the economisation of art—or global capitalism—as it bears upon particular places and art practices. Yet Horrocks‘s handling of this theme upholds neither aestheticism nor populism. Rather, he invites the reader to make sense of extensive references to a range of artistic figures, from Heaphy to Hergé to Hotere, in a way that accounts for their equal force. Hicksville thus deliberately destabilises the joint histories of art and literary history to pointed effect, valuing its range of artistic and cultural inheritances—whether the visual or literary, the highbrow or lowbrow—for how they can remind us that contemporary artistic accounts of New Zealand must also consider the various ways the country has been constructed throughout its wider


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies


Williams, Mark; Barton, Tina